Jakarta (ANTARA) - Indonesian archery athlete Riau Ega Agatha Salsabila no longer harbors concerns about his future as an athlete being "thrown away" when he retires owing to better support and attention from the government.

"Earlier, I was worried. However, the government has paid great attention to us (the athletes) now. Thus, the fear slightly subsides, and we can think ahead better," he stated.

Salsabila was not one of the recipients of the billions of rupiah disbursed as reward by the government since he had not succeeded in pocketing any medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

However, he admitted to being surprised to also having received a bonus despite not securing a medal. For the first time, the government gave a bonus of Rp100 million to each of non-medal-winning athletes participating in the Olympics.

Salsabila noted that the Olympic bonus and other bonuses will really help to secure his future when he is no longer an athlete.

Not only relying on the bonuses, the 29-year-old athlete also spoke of already having various options later after retirement, ranging from being an entrepreneur to a coach, as the government is also ready to help athletes become competent in other fields.

“We, as athletes, used to be confused about what we would like to do when we retire. If we want to become a coach, we have to learn the competence first. Moreover, if we want to be an entrepreneur,” he stated.

“However, although currently, we are still active as athletes, we have already been able to learn. The government also helps to improve our competence. Thus, when we retire, we already have the skills of the new role we want to take up," the 2018 Asian Games bronze winner noted.

Furthermore, he ensured that more youngsters would be interested in becoming athletes if the government’s support continues as it is today -- or also get better.

Thus, being an athlete will no longer be underestimated, but considered as a profession that promises a bright future.

“Hopefully, the government would ensure in future wherein being an athlete is a recognized profession. Thus, children can have several job options later," he stated.

Hence, the government has persevered to draw youngsters to pursue various sports by offering huge bonuses for Olympics medal-winning athletes. The nominal tends to increase from time to time.

At the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, the government had handed out generous rewards of Rp5 billion for gold medal winners, Rp2 billion for silver medal winners, and Rp1 billion for bronze medal winners.

The nominal increased by Rp500 million at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. In fact, Indonesia is ranked among the top 13 countries to provide the highest bonuses to medal-winning athletes at the Olympics. Indonesia ranks fifth in the world and the second in Southeast Asia.

The awards are given by the government as a mark of appreciation and reward for the athletes' hard work.

Moreover, the rewards are expected to boost the enthusiasm of the sports community in the country to continue to excel in making the nation proud at the global stage.

In addition, the bonus disbursal aims to encourage many youngsters to start considering sports as a promising job -- not to mention, the additional income from sponsors, the exposure, cooperation opportunities, brand ambassadors, as well as advertisements.

If there are outstanding athletes, who still struggle after having earned so much money, then it is generally due to their inability to manage their wealth.

According to a study conducted by the United States magazine Sports Illustrated, some 60 percent of the National Basketball Association's players went bankrupt or experienced financial difficulties after five years of retirement since they failed to manage their finances properly while they were still active as athletes.

Badminton player Anthony Sinisuka Ginting is sentient of a similar condition for some Indonesian athletes in future.

Ginting -- who obtained a bonus of Rp1.5 billion on winning a bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics -- expressed gratitude for the attention given to athletes by the government.

Ginting knows that he would not be an athlete forever, as all athletes have their own golden period. Thus, he plans to use every bonus he gets to secure his retirement phase, so he will not face difficulties later.

“Many badminton athletes have retired, perhaps, around the age of 30-32. Thus, this bonus is an additional value for us to prepare for our pension,” he added.

Athletes with disabilities are not forgotten

The bonuses are not only given to medal winners at the Olympics but also to athletes with disabilities who excel in Paralympics.

The government's bonuses aim to dispel any inequality between disabled and non-disabled sports.

Moreover, the equality of the two categories had been accentuated in the Great Design of National Sports (DBON) prepared by the Youth and Sports Ministry over the past year.

President Joko Widodo launched the DBON at the commemoration of the 38th National Sports Day (Haornas) on September 9.

“In DBON, our main target is the Olympics and Paralympics. I emphasize that in the design, we give equal space to the Olympic and Paralympic sports, so there will be no difference between the two anymore, as the government provides equal opportunities and facilitation to them," Youth and Sports Minister Zainudin Amali noted.

In addition, the government is determined not to discriminate in terms of commending and facilitating the athletes with disabilities and non-disabled ones since both of them have achieved great honors for the nation.

Chairman of the Indonesian Paralympic Committee (NPC) Senny Marbun admitted to having witnessed the equality.

Hence, he lauded President Joko Widodo's attention, so that the Indonesian contingent could win gold medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics after 41 years of waiting.

Furthermore, he informed that since the issuance of Law Number 8 of 2016 on People with Disabilities, there was no discrimination on the part of the central government toward athletes with disabilities and non-disabled ones.

The training of Paralympics and Olympics athletes are conducted equally – comprising the facilitation of national training center, support for participating in international championships, rewards, as well as guaranteed appointments as civil servants.

“The central government’s attention is amazing. The achievement is also the result of the central government’s attempts. Only President Jokowi has the courage to equalize our position with non-disabled athletes," the NPC chairman added.

Marbun noted that owing to the equal treatment, athletes with disabilities were more confident to perform to the best of their abilities in various championships -- both singles events and international multi-events.

Despite their limitations, the athletes were, in fact, able to make the nation proud akin to the non-disabled ones competing in the Olympics.

"With our physique, we are entrusted by the state to contribute to the nation. Thus, we are more confident since the government has provided extraordinary support,” he remarked.

The same was echoed by the winner of two gold and a silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, Leani Ratri Oktila.

Oktila admitted to feeling immensely appreciated, as the government did not discriminate between athletes with disabilities and non-disabled ones.

"We have experienced equality, and hopefully, it will continue," she remarked.

Minister Amali had earlier promised that the government will not differentiate in terms of the reward amount given to athletes competing in the Olympics and Paralympics.

If there is no difference, Oktila is able to get bonuses of up to Rp13.5 billion owing to her achievement of two gold and a silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

However, athletes should have right financial planning to ensure they lead a prosperous life upon retirement, regardless of the bonuses they have received.

Moreover, several outstanding athletes have got guaranteed appointments as civil servants by the government since 2016.

"Thus, there is no reason for parents to be worried if their child becomes an athlete," Oktila stated.

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Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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